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33 Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Statistics

by Branka Vuleta

Preventing sexual harassment is a top priority, and more and more companies are looking to provide mandatory training to each employee.

Such training provides adequate and practical information related to sexual harassment in the workplace statistics so that every individual is fully aware of such behavior and its consequences.

The definition of sexual harassment is unwelcome behavior in the form of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or inappropriate sexual remarks.
There are two types of sexual harassment—quid pro quo and a hostile working environment. The former is defined as an exchange of sexual services, while the latter is any harassment in the workplace that can create an intimidating environment for the victim.

Workplace Sexual Harassment Statistics (Editor’s Choice)

  • 81% of Americans believe sexual harassment is present in most US workplaces today. 
  • 54% of women have experienced unwanted sexual advances. 
  • 30% of all harassed women stated it involved a man in their workplace. 
  • 98% of US companies have a sexual harassment policy. 
  • Up to 71% of US companies provide sexual harassment training. 
  • Unwanted physical contact is reported only 8% of the time by all employees. 
  • Still, 89% of companies believe their reporting mechanism is effective. 
  • Shockingly, 75% of employees face retaliation when they file a complaint. 
  • 87%–94% of all individuals do not file any complaints on sexual harassment. 
  • Nine in ten Americans believe sexual harassment does not happen in their workplace. 
  • Only one in five companies have made an effort to address this issue.

Workplace Harassment Statistics 2017

sexual harassment in the workplace statistics - woman

What do we really know about sexual harassment in America? Different studies can provide more insight into this issue, but we still do not know a lot. Our cultural norms, fear, and shame allow for this problem to go unreported.

1. 19% of all American adults experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in 2017.

Out of those victims who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, 10% were men, while the figure for women jumped to 27%.

This came at a time when the media published scandalous headlines about sexual harassment in business and politics.


2. 16% of people aged 18 to 34 and 25% of people aged 50 to 64 were victims of harassment.

Delving deeper into these statistics on sexual harassment, we can see a difference in the number of assaulted women. 

Out of all female victims of assault, 39% belonged to the baby boomer generation, 36% belonged to the Gen X generation, and 25% were millennials.

The difference is not small, and one explanation can be the fact that baby boomers and the Gen X generation have been in the workforce for longer, thus being exposed more, compared to the millennial generation.


3. 74% of all adults believe their companies take sexual harassment seriously.

The majority of Americans believe their companies’ management takes sexual misconduct very seriously, which is truly encouraging.

Only 5% disagree, stating their companies are lenient toward firing executives and celebrities accused of sexual misconduct.


4. 71% of women and 62% of men say that sexual assault in the workplace is widespread.

Even though men and women who are over 50 years old see these issues as less common, their younger co-workers believe they are fairly prevalent.

Younger women are more likely to experience sexual harassment of any kind, with about 41% of men admitting they have seen inappropriate behavior toward younger women.

(NBC News)

5. 77% of all men say they will most likely speak out if they see any mistreatment of women.

After Alyssa Milano sparked a movement on social media using the hashtag #MeToo, the number of women who spoke out increased tenfold.

With the media issuing these shocking sexual harassment in the workplace statistics, men also feel more empowered than ever to speak out if they see any inappropriate behavior toward women.


6. Out of all harassed individuals, 63% of women did not file a complaint, while 79% of men kept the issue to themselves.

These are worrying numbers as a lot of individuals decide not to speak out due to the fear of retaliation.

Every person responds to harassment differently, but ever since the #MeToo movement gained traction, a lot of people have revealed their experiences and showed the magnitude of this problem.


7. 14% of all harassment charges are filed by individuals providing accommodation and food services.

EEOC issued worrying harassment statistics in 2017, stating that workers in this sector experience twice as much harassment than any other.

Alarming, to say the least, especially for women who rely on tips. The line between kindness and being flirtatious is rather thin, as these women are increasingly exposed to sexual harassment from managers, co-workers, and customers.


8. 12% of all sexual harassment reports are not acknowledged by supervisors.

Even more troubling is the fact that while most incidents are acknowledged, up to 31% of people say that no action was taken.

Intimidation is a key factor here as most individuals state this is the number one reason why some cases are not taken into account or acted upon.


Workplace Harassment Statistics 2018

sexual harassment in the workplace statistics - man

Harassment does not necessarily need to be physical. Verbal harassment or sexual remarks can also be offensive, especially for women.

It is unlawful to harass a person in any situation, especially if that person is a co-worker or another employee.

9. Women have a 60% chance of experiencing harassment.

This is especially worrying, as about three in five women are subjected to sexual harassment.

To make matters worse, this number is valid only for women who have already reported accounts of sexual harassment. 

(Statistics Views)

10. In 2018, roughly 80% of harassed individuals did not file a complaint.

The number one reason is the fear of retaliation. Another reason is the uncertainty regarding the definition of harassment.

Workplace harassment statistics in 2018 in the USA show about a quarter of individuals saying yes to being harassed.

But when harassment was explained using specific acts, offensive remarks, or crude jokes, the respondents’ reactions to experiencing harassment doubled.

(Statistics Views)

11. 50% of women and 64% of men who were victims of sexual harassment agreed that it hurt their career.

While a lot of people come forward and speak out on the harassment issues in the workplace, there are also a lot of those who choose to stay silent.

Suppressed feelings and the fear of speaking out publicly have forced these individuals to quit their current positions and change jobs. 

(Edison Research)

12. Only 25% of women who were victims of sexual abuse in the workplace said they could report the incident to their employers.

While this is a somewhat encouraging fact, it still is a small number of sexually harassed women who are confident enough to report abuse. 

Nonetheless, it is a positive step forward for all companies that encourage their employees to report any kind of harassment. 

(Edison Research)

13. 77% of women were verbally harassed, while 51% of women were touched without permission.

Such behavior is pervasive as it shows that more than half of the women in the workplace are experiencing these issues.

These statistics on female harassment in the workplace are enough for every company to address them adequately and establish a positive environment without any fear of misconduct.


14. 31% of all victims felt depressed and anxious after experiencing sexual harassment or assault.

These are staggering numbers that provide insight into what victims are dealing with. The majority of the victims make life-changing decisions, such as changing their jobs, ending relationships, or even marriages.

There are a lot of reports and facts that sexual harassment victims opt to change schools, quit their jobs, move out from their house or apartment, or simply stop interacting with their community members even after seeking help. 


15. EEOC filed 50% more lawsuits in 2018 compared to the year before.

Thanks to the previously mentioned #MeToo movement, many victims were encouraged to speak out and accuse the harassers. 

Since then, many men and women have come forward with the intent to punish the harassers and free the workplace from any kind of harassment. 


16. Only 1% of sexually harassed victims confronted their harassers.

This shows how challenging it is to confront the person who made the victim suffer.

As the earlier sexual harassment facts and statistics show, it is much easier for the victims to change their lives than to confront the harassers.


17. The 2018 online survey found that 81% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime.

The same survey revealed that 43% of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. That is a fairly large percentage considering other data collected in 2018. 

That could be due to the anonymity factor, as not a lot of men and women are strong or confident enough to speak out publicly.


18. 51% of women were touched or groped in an unwelcome manner on the street or in public.

These figures are alarming, to say the least. According to these 2018 statistics on street harassment, five out of ten women were inappropriately touched when in public. 

While authorities are rigorous on this matter, only 27% of the abused women survived a sexual assault.

(Stop Street Harassment)

19. 17% of men have experienced touching or groping in an unwelcome way on the street or in public.

Men also experience inappropriate touching when in public, although the numbers are smaller compared to women. 

Out of those men, 7% of them survived the sexual assault. 

(Stop Street Harassment)

Workplace Harassment Statistics 2019

sexual harassment in the workplace statistics - girl

Over the last few years, sexual harassment awareness has brought this problem to light. With the latest publicly disclosed sexual harassment issues in the workplace, it is essential to understand the facts in order to act properly. 

20. 99% of employees successfully recognize a sexual harassment situation.

This is a positive step toward eliminating potentially dangerous scenarios. Recent allegations have taught us that people are not afraid to address this issue.

It is reported that almost all individuals show support and want to fight against sexual misconduct.

(True Office Learning)

21. According to the latest workplace sexual harassment statistics, 34% of employees do not truly grasp and identify behaviors that lead to a hostile working environment.

While almost every employee is aware of the consequences of sexual misconduct, not everyone truly grasps the concept of harassment.

Surprisingly, a third of the employees do not understand the elements of sexual harassment, which can potentially create a hostile working environment.

(True Office Learning)

22. The number of sexual harassment charges increases by up to 15% each year.

The increasing number of charges every year further supports the fact that employees are aware of these issues and are more than willing to press charges. 

While the number of these charges has increased over the years, a lot of sexual assaults still go unreported. 

(Dando Diary)

23. 56% of men believe that reported workplace sexual harassment goes unpunished.

Men, and people in general, believe that the majority of the reported incidents are not prosecuted.

People accused of the assault claimed they were just joking and had no intention to hurt or sexually assault anyone. 


24. 20% of companies have made an effort to create specific strategies to address sexual harassment issues.

Since the start of the #MeToo movement, companies have begun addressing this issue more.

If the latest reports are true, two out of ten companies are making an effort to eliminate all current and potential inappropriate behavior in the workplace. 


25. 90% of female restaurant workers experience sexual harassment.

Out of all reported sexual harassment in the workplace cases, female restaurant workers are predominantly exposed to such mistreatment. Workers in this industry often live through these experiences. 

Minorities are even more exposed as they face other problems as well, such as immigration status, lack of other job options, cultural differences, language barriers, and, very often, not knowing their rights. 


26. 68% of LGBT workers have experienced sexual harassment at work.

2019 sexual harassment in the workplace statistics revealed that seven out of ten LGBT workers were the victims of sexual harassment at work.

Two-thirds of these incidents go unreported because LGBT workers fear of getting fired.

27. One in seven women and approximately one in 17 men have sought different job opportunities due to harassment in the workplace.

Workplace harassment is very common, but it is rarely reported. Close to 85% of the victims do not file a complaint or press charges.

What is more worrying is that most victims do not even talk about it with their co-workers or superiors. Instead, they opt to quit their jobs or work for a different company. 


How Common Is Sexual Assault in the Workplace?

sexual harassment in the workplace statistics - me too

The #MeToo movement raised awareness against sexual harassment in the workplace, and it took a huge toll on people’s personal lives.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is widespread, and women are suffering the most with studies estimating that 25% to 80% of them experience some sort of harassment at work.

Sexual assault and other forms of harassment have a serious impact on women, and men for that matter, as well as their employers.

There are numerous solutions to harassment in the workplace, such as anti-harassment policy, training implementation, discouraging misconduct, limiting the number of alcoholic beverages at office parties, etc.

Workplace harassment can affect an individual in many ways and cost companies a lot of money at the same time. 

28. In 2017, the EEOC gained $46.3 million in monetary benefits for sexual harassment charges.

Amounts of financial payouts by companies are usually kept confidential, but EEOC is responsible for publishing financial settlements on behalf of all victims.

These are not definite numbers since the EEOC is responsible only for a small number of charges it receives.


29. Victims of harassment are 6.5 times more likely to change jobs.

Statistics on sexual harassment in the workplace provide insight into the victim’s state of mind as those individuals are more likely to change their jobs after experiencing abuse.

This could be due to the fact that a lot of incidents go unpunished, or that victims fear retaliation when they choose to report those incidents.


30. $22,500 per person is the average cost through lost productivity.

The negative effects of harassment in the workplace are also detrimental to the company since all employees are heavily affected by such scenarios.

That comes as no surprise because sexual harassment can reduce the motivation and productivity of an employee, and influence the overall job satisfaction.


31. 60% of all sexual discrimination complaints based on maternity are gender-related.

Sexual discrimination statistics portray a growing concern when it comes to maternity leave. Namely, two-thirds of all discrimination complaints based on maternity are in fact made on the basis of gender.

Being fired for getting pregnant or after returning from maternity leave are two clear indicators of discrimination.


32. Top locations where men report sexual harassment are in a public space, at school, at work, at home, or by phone.

Men are mostly harassed in public, with 19% of respondents stating this. 14% of men are harassed at school, while 13% of men are harassed at work or by phone.

Statistics on sexual assault in the workplace show a vast difference between harassment of men and women, with women being more prone to abuse.


33. Sexual harassment charges saw an increase of 12% compared to previous years.

There are numerous articles on workplace violence addressing this issue, and this stat further points at how many complaints are filed. According to workplace statistics, there was a massive 13% increase compared to 2018.

Considering the increased number of charges, although truly alarming, it is an encouraging sign that more and more victims are coming forward, bringing the perpetrators to light.

(Fisher Phillips)


How many cases of workplace harassment are filed each year?

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not an industry-related problem but is rather widespread.

On average, the EEOC receives 12,574 sexual harassment charges every year, with the record number of 13,055 charges filed in 2018.

These numbers do not include any charges that have been filed with local or state fair employment agencies.

As we outlined above, most of these cases go unresolved, which is a truly worrying fact considering the staggering number of charges filed each year.

What percentage of male students claim to have been sexually harassed?

Men are not immune to sexual harassment and are often victims of such assaults.

Reports state that male students aged 18 to 24 are five times more likely to be the victims of sexual assault compared to the same group of men who are not students. 

Millions of men are also victims of sexual assaults or other forms of harassment, and, again, most of these incidents go unreported out of fear of rejection, shame, and even retaliation.

What is workplace violence and harassment?

Workplace violence is defined as physical violence or threat with the aim to hurt a co-worker or employee in the workplace that should otherwise be considered a safe and healthy environment.

The exercise of physical force can cause an injury that hampers the work and productivity of the victim. This will not only lead to decreased productivity of an employee, but the company will suffer consequences as well, as numerous workplace harassment statistics confirm this.

Furthermore, an unstable working environment may also lead to harassment in the form of verbal abuse, sexual remarks, general misconduct, and unwelcome behavior, such as inappropriate touching or other sexual advances.

The workplace should be free from these incidents and provide a stable, safe, and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of its employees, as well as the company.

How common is catcalling?

When young women walk alone in public, they often feel anxious. Situations where women are whistled at or catcalled are not uncommon, regardless of the location. About every nine in ten women experience street harassment, either by being wolf-whistled or catcalled.

Women experience catcalling around 3.69 times in seven days. That is more than once every two days. It is a serious issue that portrays catcalling as very common. Such behavior makes women feel very uncomfortable and unsafe. 

How many females in America are sexually assaulted annually?

Millions of women in America have experienced sexual assaults, with younger women being exposed to even higher risk.

321,500 is the average number of sexual assaults per year, with 90% of these victims being female.

Young female non-students aged 18 to 24 are more likely to be victims of sexual assault compared to female students who belong to the same age group. 

What is more worrying is the fact that young women aged 16 to 19 are four times more likely to become victims of sexual assault. 

What is economic harassment?

Economic harassment, or otherwise known as financial abuse, is a form of abuse when one partner gains control over the other person’s finances, assets, and other economic resources. This form of financial abuse allows full control over the victim’s life while completely denying financial support. 

The victim is not allowed to spend money, pursue higher education, or find a job that can provide financial stability. The harasser’s goal is to establish a controlling mechanism, which can hamper the victim’s development.

Although statistics show that sexual harassment at work is more common, financial abuse is not something that should be overlooked, as it can often lead to domestic violence.

The Bottom Line

Harassment is unwelcome behavior that is directed toward an individual based on age, gender, race, sexual orientation, and similar. 

A stable working environment must be provided by every company together with sexual harassment training.

Not only that, but companies need to take these matters seriously, as sexual abuse can have a series of consequences that can last a lifetime. It is imperative for companies to address this issue as sexual harassment in the workplace statistics provide significant insight into what men and women are dealing with on a daily basis.


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